A Dutch manager inheriting a broken Manchester United squad that had missed the Champions League the year prior and that was in desperate need of rebuilding both on and off the field.
This was the situation that Louis van Gaal marched into in 2014, when he took over a Manchester United squad that had finished seventh the year before under David Moyes. Van Gaal was an experienced manager, having won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995, two La Liga’s with Barcelona, Bundesliga with Bayern Munchen and finished runner-up in the World Cup as the manager of Netherlands. Van Gaal came just over a year Sir Alex Ferguson had retired. He had meant so much to the club, that the whole organization was unsettled by him leaving.
Manchester United’s new manager, Erik ten Hag, is very similar in many ways. But also very different in many others.
Ten Hag comes into Manchester United without winning a single trophy outside of the Netherlands. He has never got his team into the final of any European cup. Although, getting Ajax to the semi-finals few years ago was much harder than what it would have been in van Gaal’s time. Ten Hag is also 13 years younger than van Gaal was when he took over United.
Ten Hag has been one of the biggest names in the coaching market outside of the big 5 leagues, with him being linked to Tottenham and Barcelona previously.
The timing couldn’t be better for ten Hag to come in and fix Manchester United. Let’s be real: they need fixing. Awful performances have left United fans boiling. Marcus Rashford isn’t performing. Fred was a below-average Premier League player at the beginning of the year. Captain Harry Maguire’s lowlight reel could give JaVale McGee a run for his money in Shaqtin’ a Fool. Because of their signings not performing, their scouts were let go earlier this week. CEO Ed Woodward left in February after years of criticism of his transfer policy.
Van Gaal inherited a squad that had many good young players, but also a lot of older players. David de Gea, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj were all players under 23 who started at least 15 games. So far this season that number has been reached by two U23 players: Jaden Sancho, and Mason Greenwood, who will most likely never return to United. Current squad doesn’t have many old players, with Cristiano Ronaldo being the only regular starter nearing the end of his career, where as van Gaal’s United still had players like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick. Interestingly, both teams have the same average age: 26.7.
Ten Hag is expected to lose many players. Nemanja Matic has already confirmed that he will leave the club, whereas players like Marcus Rashford, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba could leave the club in the summer. That will give ten Hag funds to chase his targets, from which West Ham’s Declan Rice to be at the top of his list, and give other players a chance, like Donny van de Beek, former Ajax man who flourished under ten Hag.
This would be a perfect time for the Glazers to give a talented manager time to build his own squad. We’ve seen where it has led Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp was given time to build his squad. They didn’t finish in the top 3 in his first three seasons. But after that they have constantly been one of the best teams in Europe.
I am hoping for ten Hag’s sake, and for Manchester United’s sake, that he will be given time to build his squad. Because any manager walking into that situation would be doomed if not.